Community updated on Mason transportation and construction projects

Construction on the Campus Drive underpass will begin in February (photo courtesy of George Mason University).
Construction on the Campus Drive underpass will begin in February (photo courtesy of George Mason University).

At the quarterly university community forum, nearby residents received updates on different construction and transportation projects around George Mason University’s Fairfax campus. The forum was held on Jan. 30 at Kings Park Library Burke.

Campus Drive

On Jan. 5, construction began for an extension road that will provide easier access between George Mason University’s central Fairfax location and the facilities just west of campus. Campus Drive will provide pedestrian and automobile connection to the main campus, the field house and the west campus parking lot and fields. Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014.

As part of the $15 million project, an underpass will be built beneath Route 123, next to the Field House. In order for construction to proceed, traffic will be detoured around Route 123, which is projected to begin in February.

“The bridge will be done at the end of this year,” said Erik Backus, a campus planner for Mason.

Currently, the west campus parking lot holds 900 spaces, but will be reduced to 760. A traffic light will be installed on Braddock Road, where Campus Drive will end.

Some audience members expressed concern that the new intersection would affect the Prestwick neighborhood, across Braddock Road from west campus.

“It’s stunning to me,” said one Prestwick resident. “I know we need progress. We need to improve the project…I’m a little terrified looking at this.”

Backus said that a majority of the changes in the intersection would happen on the university side of Braddock.

“One of the distinct characteristics about this intersection is that the character of your entrance will not change,” said Backus.

“The one thing I wonder,” said another Prestwick resident. “Was there thought given to the campus drive…so it didn’t come out right in front of our neighborhood?”

Cathy Wolfe, director of campus planning, said that a committee with representatives from the surrounding neighborhoods debated several locations for the intersection.

“This one seemed to make the most sense,” said Wolfe. “Some people did see it as some positives. All the improvements are really…north. The character of your street doesn’t really change.”

Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook, who chairs the community forum, said he believed a traffic light at the intersection would have positive impacts on congestion in the area.

“It will be much less of a nightmare than it used to be,” said Cook. 

Another audience member asked whether the open space south of the field house would be preserved or if buildings would be developed there. 

“That area will not be developed with buildings,” said Wolfe. “That’s a very good element of this project. There was a lot of concern . . . that buildings or even dormitories will be put up in that area.”

The open space south of the Field House will house javelin, discus and shot put spaces that were removed because of construction of the road.

Fenwick Library addition

Fenwick Library will nearly double in size with a 150,000 square foot addition.

“This project will re-purpose the existing Fenwick Library to meet the demands of Mason’s growing, increasingly residential undergraduate student population,” read a description on the project’s website.

The addition, totaling $57 million, will include reading rooms, research commons as well as a 24/7 study space and café.

“It’s going to more than triple the number of study seats we have today,” said Wolfe.

The addition will also adhere to LEED Silver environmental standards.

Construction on the project will begin in late spring or early summer. In 2012, work crews began preliminary site work to prepare for the addition. Construction on the project will last two years.

According to current plans, other parts of the library will be removed.

“We’ll tear down those two story buildings and make way for a quad,” said Wolfe. “It’s going to give a new face to the library.”

The next Campus Community Forum will be held later this spring. 

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